Megan Dunne had no idea what her soccer career would develop into when she was introduced to the sport at a young age.
“I joined soccer just to make friends,” said Dunne, currently a sophomore at St. Dominic Academy. “I didn’t think it would become anything.”
Dunne said that she started out just kicking the ball around in the family backyard with her uncle.
“We were just passing the ball around,” Dunne said. “I didn’t even know if I could shoot.”
Dunne was registered for a local recreation league and needless to say, she had instant success.
In Dunne’s very first game in the recreation league, she scored seven goals. That’s no misprint. She found the net a total of seven times in her first-ever organized soccer game.
“When I scored seven goals in my first game, my parents saw that I had some talent,” Dunne said. “So they encouraged me to play. I really got serious about it and wanted to play more. I had fun.”
Dunne remained dedicated to the sport through her travel and recreation days and maintained that positive feeling and spirit after entering SDA in the fall of 2017. But there was no way Dunne thought she would continue the level of excellence that she displayed during her youth soccer days.
“I was very surprised,” Dunne said. “Going into high school, I thought my progress would be very slow, But my teammates welcomed me right away and passed me the ball.”
Dunne scored 24 goals as a freshman in 2017.
“It definitely gave me a lot of confidence,” Dunne said. “I thought that maybe I’d score a few goals. I never thought I’d get 24.”
St. Dominic Academy head coach Jorge Hernandez followed Dunne when she was still in grade school and realized that Dunne was a special talent.
“I knew right away she was the real deal,” Hernandez said. “She had all the potential in the world. She had incredible speed and natural aggressiveness. I knew that we could work with her because she was such a special talent.”
But after scoring two dozen goals as a rookie, there was little room to go up. Or was there?
Dunne was not complacent at all. She wanted to get better, doing a little bit of everything during the offseason to improve her game.
“I spent two days a week working with a personal trainer [David Cornwell] in Lyndhurst in Riverside County Park for 90 minutes each session,” Dunne said. “It was a solo training session, just me and him. We worked a lot with shooting and ball control and keeping the ball close to me as I moved. It definitely helped me.”
Dunne also did a lot of running at a park near her home in Kearny.
“I would start running down the hill and work my way back up,” Dunne said. “I wanted to make sure I was ready for the start of the [soccer] season.”
Hernandez believed that Dunne was thoroughly prepared for the start of her sophomore season, except for one aspect – her position on the field. Dunne was strictly a forward last year and Hernandez thought that the talented sophomore had a better opportunity to control the game from center midfield.
“About four games ago or so, she came up to our coaching staff at halftime of a game and said that she would be a better player coming off the front line,” Hernandez said. “She asked if she could play center midfield. So we took her off the line. She could manage her vision better and see the field better. She was where she needed to be in terms of getting the proper angles. This was the turning point. She said, ‘Now, I really understand the game.’ She said, ‘I finally feel like I’m playing the game of soccer.’ ”
Over her last four games, Dunne has been on fire. She scored four goals in a game against University Charter, three against McNair Academic, four against Dickinson and three in the NJSIAA Non-Public A North opening round 4-3 overtime win over Paramus Catholic to advance to take on top seed Immaculate Heart in the sectional quarterfinals.
For her efforts, Dunne has been selected as The Hudson Reporter Athlete of the Weekfor the past week.
Hernandez has enjoyed watching Dunne blossom this season. At press time, she now has 30 goals for the season, which is a gigantic achievement for a Hudson County girls’ soccer player.
“She has a lot of heart,” Hernandez said. “She is a special character. She never wants to give up. She wants to succeed. She’s going to give it her all on every loose ball. She has the ability to put the team on her back and try her best to get the ball in the net.”
Dunne believes her mentality is the biggest reason why she’s scored an astounding 54 goals in two seasons of high school soccer.
“I’ve come to the decision that I have to work harder than everyone else,” Dunne said. “I have to go into beast mode and say, ‘I want that goal. I want that ball.’ I feel like I have all of that. I think I have that kind of determination. I can prove to others that I can pursue the ball and get that goal.”
Dunne was asked what reaching the 30-goal milestone meant to her.
“It means everything to me,” Dunne said. “It boosts up my confidence a lot and lets me know that I can do it, that I have both the ability and the talent.”
Although she’s only a sophomore, Dunne knows that it’s never too early to start thinking about college.
“I most definitely want to play in college,” Dunne said. “I’m definitely doing research now about colleges. I also want to play club soccer in the off season and be part of a good team. I love soccer. I want to take this all further and see how far I can go with it.”
Dunne was a basketball player last year, but she’s thinking about concentrating on club soccer as well as outdoor track in the spring. Dunne runs all the sprints (100-meter dash through 400-meter run) for the famed SDA program.
As of now, Dunne is content being a goal scorer, hell bent on getting to the elusive 100-goal plateau for her career.
“I said to Megan, ‘You’re going to be the first 100-goal scorer in the history of the school,’” Hernandez said. “But you have to be patient and let it come to you.”
“It really is amazing,” Dunne said. “I can feel the adrenaline flowing when I see the ball go into the net. It’s a feeling like ‘Hey, that’s great, now let’s go get another one.’” – Jim Hague
Jim Hague can be reached via e-mail at OGSMAR@aol.com